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Affordable housing quest

By Juan Soto

Southeast Queens was hit hard during the housing crisis earthquake.

Thousands of families lost their homes following the collapse of the market back in 2008, but although homeowners are still being struck by the aftershocks, people are venturing into the housing market.

Since arriving in New York City from Jamaica, sisters Susan and Cynthia Morris always have dreamt of owning a home. But because of their incomes, banks refused to approved their mortgage applications over and over again.

Susan is a home health attendant and Cynthia is a certified nursing assistant.

When they were about to give up on their dream, the siblings found their way to the Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, a nonprofit committed to revitalizing neighborhoods in southeast Queens.

“We were giving up,” said Cynthia Morris. “For us, buying a house was not going to become a reality.”

With help from the Queens organization, founded in 1974, the Morris sisters were able to buy a two-family home, at 145-62 South Road in Jamaica. The structure was earmarked for resale to a low- to moderate-income family from the community.

They are putting in the final touches in the basement, and they are hoping to move in by the end of the summer.

“I cannot explain how good we feel for being able to buy our dream home,” said Cynthia Morris in an interview. “My sister will have one floor and I will have the other in the two-family home.”

They bought the house at 35 percent bellow market value with a 5 percent down payment.

For Neighborhood Housing Services, the Jamaica sisters case exemplifies what affordable housing is all about.

“Because of the affordable housing crisis, we had to respond to the community’s needs,” said Helen Maxwell, director of Neighborhood Housing Services Development Corp., a division of NHSJ. “We are helping low- to middle-income residents with their homes.”

“There is a big need for affordable housing in Queens,” Maxwell pointed out, adding that homeowners also seek the help of her organization to apply for grants in order to do repairs in their houses.

“If they are not able to get conventional loans from the banks, we offer grants,” added Maxwell.

The case of Cynthia Morris and her sisters is one of hundreds that Neighborhood Housing Services got involved with.

“They were great,” Cynthia Morris said. “When you were with them, it felt like you knew them for so long. It was like talking with your friends.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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